OAKLAND (AP) — Monta Ellis matched his career high with 46 points, Stephen Curry added 25 points and 11 assists, and the Golden State Warriors won Keith Smart’s coaching debut by beating the Houston Rockets 131-128 on Wednesday night.
David Lee had 17 points and 15 rebounds, and Dorell Wright scored 15 points to help the Warriors to their first season-opening win since 2005. They also snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Rockets dating to 2007.
Golden State won despite Houston’s 52-26 advantage in free throw attempts, beating the Rockets for the first time since Dec. 31, 2007.
Luis Scola had 36 points and 16 rebounds, while Kevin Martin added 28 points for the Rockets, who played without 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming.
Ellis, the Warriors’ leading scorer last season, went 18 of 24 from the floor and repeatedly made big shots down the stretch whenever the Rockets made a run.
One of three team captains, Ellis nearly blew it down the stretch, however. He missed three consecutive free throws in the final 35 seconds before sinking two with 10.2 seconds remaining to seal the win and match his career high set against Dallas on Feb. 3 last season.
Houston, which lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 112-110 in its opener on Tuesday, had no answer and missed Yao’s presence in the middle.
Yao missed all of last season recovering from foot surgery and is being limited to 24 minutes a game while he continues his rehab. He didn’t play against the Warriors because Houston is taking a careful approach and won’t play him in back-to-back games.
Yao’s replacement, Chuck Hayes, had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
A loud and exuberant crowd of 18,000-plus was on hand to celebrate Smart’s first NBA coaching victory. The former Golden State assistant took over when the Warriors parted ways with career wins leader Don Nelson last month.
Not much has changed for Golden State under the new regime. The Warriors are still running, still gunning and still scoring at a breakneck pace.
Ellis had 17 points in the first quarter and 23 in the half, but Houston still led 68-67 at the break.
Scola, who had 18 points in the loss to the Lakers, surpassed that in the first half with 19. He scored eight points over the final 2:42, including a pair of free throws with 3 seconds remaining to give the Rockets a one-point halftime lead.
The Warriors pulled away in the third quarter behind Curry. The second-year guard made a pair of 3-pointers, fed Ellis on a fast break, then added a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 100-93 lead with 1:06 left. He also aggravated the right ankle sprain that kept him out of the Warriors’ final preseason game.
Notes: With Game 1 of the World Series being played across the bay, the Warriors opened the doors to Oracle Arena more than three hours before tip-off and showed the game on the center court scoreboard.
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